Sophie – Week 2 of Reece Summer School

Monday 20th July: Bel Valves On Monday, we visited Bel Valves in Newcastle; they are a part of British Engines, and specialise in making valves. Unlike Nissan, would have production en mass, they make bespoke products. It may take them up to a year to finish a valve, because the  so the atmosphere of the site was very different! It was much more relaxed. They spoke to us about their apprenticeship schemes as well, and it was good to see how many opportunities there are for people wanting to enter into engineering.

Tuesday 21st July: Reece Innovation IMG_2840Today, we visited Reece Innovation. It was interesting to see what the company that sponsors this summer school does; we learnt that the Reece group is actually a collection of 5 companies; Pearson Engineering, Responsive Engineering, Pipe Coil Technology, Reece Innovation, and Velocity. They have recently bought a new building in Newcastle, so things were still being built and set up there, but there was still lots of manufacturing taking place. We saw how they welded the parts, and were shown the machines they use to cut materials, of which there were 3 main types; cutters that used lasers, cutters that used fire and cutters that used water.   IMG_2842 It was interesting to see Reece innovation, because rather than having a specific product that they manufacture, they make products that clients need making upon request, which was very much unlike Nissan, and also dissimilar to Bel Valves, although the two companies do work with more bespoke products.




Wednesday 22nd July: On Wednesday we continued writing up our reports on our project. We also watched a presentation on earthquakes delivered by Robert from Durham university and from New Zealand. It was great to see expert taking about their fields and it was very helpful with our reports, especially for me because I am primarily researching the science behind earthquakes and detection and measurement techniques.

Thursday 23rd July: We continued working on our reports for most of the day again today, but we also learnt about how to produce an academic poster, which we will be making and presenting on the last day of the 3 weeks. We were shown how these types of posters are used at conferences to convey information about research, which seems like an exciting thing to do.

Friday 24th July: On Friday we continued with work in the morning, and in the afternoon we talked about what qualities we looked for in engineers, and what made a successful engineer. We also looked at the problem of the lack of women in engineering. To do this we looked at some quotes from people saying why they thought that there was this lack of women in engineering; some were unfair, such as “women are less scientifically minded”, and others were just wrong, such as “choosing a STEM subject limits your options”, and “There are more career opportunities in the arts” (I should be careful what I say here). It’s interesting to see what the public thinks about STEM and women in STEM even now!

Week two- Beth

On Monday we visited British engines where, upon our arrival, we were given a short presentation on BEL Valves and what they were about which allowed us to have a small insight into what engineers do within their company. We then got a tour of their shop floor which involved seeing where they tested all of the valves and we were told about the pressures that they were being tested at. After the tour of the factory, we were then taken back to the meeting room where we got to speak to females who worked within the company. I thought that speaking to these females was very helpful and informative. After BEL Valves, we went back to the university where we carried on with our research.

The following day, we went to Reece group limited where we were also given a presentation on our arrival. We were told lots of information about their company and what they manufacture. We found out that they manufacture a variety of things including military equipment which would enable soldiers to avoid mines within the field that they are working in. After the presentation we then got a tour of the shop floor, we got to see many welders in action and look at a few of the products which had been finished. Many of the workers had to pay a lot of attention to detail especially when they are checking over the dimensions of the final product. We then took taxis back to the university in the afternoon and carried on with our academic research.

On Wednesday, we began the day with a talk from two visitors with one of them being from New Zealand. They came in to talk to us in depth about earthquakes. I found this extremely interesting and I learnt quite a lot about earthquakes in a very small space of time. For example, I learnt more about fault planes and that they are approximately 30km in depth (usually) but they can go as far as 100km in depth under extreme circumstances. We did a small practical involving a brick, we pulled the brick along the surface of a wooden board and estimated the amount of force required to move it and the distance that it moved. We then took measurements of the brick on the sand paper, where we found out that it moves a much smaller distance even though it requires a larger force to be moved. The brick was used to symbolise a fault plane. I also learned that bamboo is a good cheap material to be used in buildings to make them more earthquake resilient as they are flexible and can move with an earthquake when one occurs. I used this information as part of my academic poster. In the afternoon, Pietro showed us the Physics behind acoustic waves which was also very interesting to learn about.

Sarah, a member of the think physics team, came into the lab on Thursday morning to talk to us more about academic posters. This was very useful and gave me many ideas on how I should lay my academic poster out and what sort of information I should be including on it. After this talk I was able to begin my academic poster properly. For the rest of the day we carried on with writing up our reports.

On Friday we carried on with our research again, and by this stage I was nearing the end of my report and was well on my way with the academic poster. In the afternoon, we did something which was a lot different from what we having been doing so far. We went into a classroom and we watched a video on engineers and we all had to write down the skills that engineers need to have in order to be successful in the work place; we also had to write down what skills we have too and how we can use these skills in a future job. We then had to choose a doll and recreate it, I wiped off the dolls old face and painted on a new one, I then began to make a lab coat for my doll. I decided that my doll was going to be a biomedical engineer. We also had to create a label for our doll listing all of the skills that it needs to have in order to be successful in its career.

Tegan – Week 2

Week 2

On the first day we visited BEL Valves, an engineering group who produce valves for things such as oil rigs. It was interesting to see another side to engineering, as we found out that sometimes it may take the company up to one year to produce only one valve, compared with Nissan where they were producing around 50,000 cars per year. We met a group of girls who worked there, and found out what it was like to be female in a male-dominated environment.


We went to the Reece Group on Tuesday, and found out more about the five groups within the Reece Group. We had a guided tour of the workshop and what each machine does, followed by an interesting talk with a woman engineer who works for Reece Innovation. It was really helpful to find out about how she got into engineering from doing a degree in physics, and what her day-to-day job is like.



Later on in the week we were given a presentation on how earthquakes are formed, which was great because it made me realise just how little I had known about them before. The people who we spoke to were experts in Geology and earthquakes, and it was a really great opportunity to ask them questions about geology and their careers in general.

We also had a few demonstrations from a student at Northumbria Uni, who was finishing his degree in physics. One was an example of how a building moves in response to an earthquake, which was helpful to our project on the Nepal Earthquake.

On the last day, we had an interesting discussion on the differences between men and women in both engineering, and life in general. We were shown a video clip from a woman who gave Bratz Dolls a make-under so that they were more natural and suitable for younger girls. The point was that Bratz dolls, with their heavy makeup, and extremely unrealistic bodies, were bad role-models to younger girls. We then had a go at our own– it was great fun.


Eleanor – Week Two

On Monday morning we took a trip to BEL Valves which is part of the British Engines group. They make valves for deep sea pipe lines to extract oil and for back-up pipes to stop oil flow in an emergency. The process we saw during our factory tour was much different to that at Nissan in that BEL Valves don’t mass produce; instead they make specific items for each client. I liked this as it showed that to work in a factory like this you aren’t constantly timed to do each little job and it doesn’t become repetitive. In the afternoon we continued our research back at the uni and focused on specific areas within that and started to think about our research posters.

On Tuesday morning we visited the Reece group in their factory in Newcastle. Here we were given a short presentation and a tour of the factory floor and got to see the processes within each of their departments from building each part to seeing the plans and testing copies that each client receives showing how their product was made. In the afternoon we carried on with our research of the Nepal earthquake within our groups.

During Wednesday we got a talk from a lecturer from Durham University and one from New Zealand who informed us more about the science of the Nepal earthquake, what could eventually happen at the collision zone where it took place, effects experienced at places struck by an earthquake of similar magnitude and how Nepal could rebuild itself. They also let us do some experiments to demonstrate what happened to cause the earthquake and how different materials and forces can affect the overall damage occurring. In the afternoon we got a talk from one of the lecturers at Northumbria University about how acoustic waves affect buildings during an earthquake and how we can overcome this problem.

A member of the Think Physics team gave us a talk about research posters on Thursday morning. She showed us examples from a range of subjects and then we discussed what a good scientific research poster should have (references, structure, graphs/results etc.). We then continued to do some more research and started to transfer this in to our own posters; after sketching some designs. In the afternoon we started to write a profile on ourselves for the Think Physics website which contained information about us, physics and the Reece summer school.

On Friday, other than furthering our research, we took part in a task exploring gender inequality within different subjects (not just girls in physics) and started to explore why this is a common thing to see and also what teenagers and adults thought about girls in physics and engineering in particular. We then looked at the roots of these thoughts and started looking at how girls and boys are very much separated at a young age. Then we were each given a bratz doll which we had to revamp into some sort of scientist by changing its appearance and clothes. We also identified skills that we have as individuals and ones that engineers have and wrote these on a tag attached to the doll.

Tegan – Week Three

Week 3

We started off Week 3 with a visit to MACAW Engineering, a company who specialise in pipeline engineering. We were introduced to the world of drones, and even got to fly a small one (or tried to fly a small one). We had a presentation from a girl who had just become an engineer at the business, and a Q&A session with a group of female engineers. Both of which were really informative and helpful in finding out about the different ways and reasons people get into engineering.

The next day we visited Kromek – a company who produce radiation detectors to work in the medical, security and nuclear sectors. We were given lots of information about what it’s like to study physics at university, then the physics behind radiation and the detectors Kromek had produced. It was amazing to think that such a small object could be capable of so much. After having a go at detecting an unknown chemical in a tin, we were given a tour of the clean room. For this we had to change into gorgeous lab coats, hair nets and stylish white shoes, which ended up taking longer than the actual tour did! We were shown some of the radiation materials, and then an example of a machine that was used to detect banned materials in bottles at airports.  


To get used to the designing aspect of Engineering, which we hadn’t really focused on before, we had an instrument-making workshop. We were given instructions to set up a circuit to power the spinner which would make the instrument work by itself. Then it was up to us to design and produce the instrument using only: glue, tape, cardboard, drums, shakers, and drumsticks. It was really good to have a go at engineering ourselves and get used to the designing and problem-solving… and also really fun!

At the end of the week we finished off our academic research and posters on the Nepal earthquake, ready for the presentation day on Friday.

Week 2-Alex

Monday 20th July-BEL Valves

BEL Valves are a company that make sub sea valves for oil pipe lines but unlike Nissan their products aren’t mass produced, they make products specific to the customer’s needs. We spoke to a group of female apprentices and they explained what they did and what it was like working in a male dominated work place, it was very helpful and gave a good insight into what the job involved. We also had a tour of the shop floor which was interesting because it had a much different atmosphere to Nissan as it felt less pressured, possibly because it wasn’t a mass production factory so the workers didn’t have the pressure of a time limit and weren’t constantly doing the same job.

Tuesday 21st July- Reece Group

We went to the Reece Group factory in Newcastle which was much bigger than BEL Valves. We had an introduction to Reece where they explained the different things that they make which includes military equipment then we had a tour around the shop floor. It was quite similar to BEL Valves with respect to it producing bespoke products but on a much lager scale. After the tour we spoke to a lady and she told us how she got into engineering from doing her physics degree and what her day to day job was like which was helpful as it illustrated that there are lots of different paths you can take so if you aren’t sure what you want to do it’s not a problem.

Wednesday 22nd July- Talk on Earthquakes

On Wednesday we had a lecture explaining more in depth about the science behind earthquakes and why they occur from two lecturers; one from Durham University and the other was from New Zealand. We learned that earthquakes often occur in subduction zones which are often found on tectonic boundaries. In a subduction zone one plate is forced under the other and the rocks deform elastically under the stress of the plate but when the stress gets too great it breaks or moves and waves are sent through the earth which is what causes the shaking.

Thursday 23rd July-Posters

In the morning we looked at examples of academic posters and looked at the features of them and which ones we thought were better or worse to give us ideas about how we want to design our posters. We then continued with our research in the afternoon and began to produce a rough plan for our posters as well as writing profiles for each other which included finding out what each other wanted to do in the future and if we had any advice for younger years etc.

Friday 24th July-Dolls

In the afternoon we looked at stereotypes within science and at what might have lead the engineering/physics world to be mostly dominated by males. We watched a video of various different types of engineers and what they thought was important in the engineering world in terms of human traits and we considered what sort of person you need to be to be an engineer. We were shown a video of a lady who took second hand dolls and gave them a make-under and then sold them and they became very popular, the point was that dolls such as bratz dolls are all so heavily made up and have unrealistic body standards are not good role models for young girls. We were given dolls and we had a go at giving them a make under and gave them characteristics.


Week One-Alex

Monday 13th July Day 1- Beamish

When we arrived at Beamish we were shown to the lamp cabin by the heads of learning, Simon and Holly, who explained the dangers of having a naked flame in the mine and how they had been redesigned and developed to prevents accidents. They started with a small flame that was reflected by a metal disk that amplified the light. It was soon realised that a metal gauze prevented heat passing through so they began to use them on the lamps. Since it prevented heat escaping through, if the flame happened to come into contact with methane that was trapped in the rocks it would contain the explosion. Before these lamps were developed some unfortunate soul would have to go into the mine with a torch, wearing very wet clothing and would have to light the methane in the mine to get rid of it.

In the afternoon we attempted to build a track that would have lifted the mine cart from the mine and load it onto a boat to export it. It proved to be more difficult than it looked despite it being a three-piece operation and it illustrated that designing mechanisms isn’t necessarily the hard part as the building of them can be just as difficult. The trip gave a good insight to what mechanisms influenced today’s technology and how people managed to use integrity to work with what materials they had at the time. It was also interesting to learn about how people dealt with the situation- miners having to crawl through 18″ high tunnels 6 days a week for 12 hours etc.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

Tuesday 14th July Day 2- Nissan(Day 1)

We began with a short introduction to the F1 challenge by looking at some pre made cars that met the spec and we had a go at racing them and testing our reaction times. They were able to reach the end of the 20m track in just over a second and were propelled by a canister in the back firing CO2. We followed this by using a programme called ‘Autodesk Inventor’ and tried designing some wheels and a basic car body by following the instructions just to get used to it initially. After a few frustrating hours of getting used to it and looking at a few more examples of cars we started to design our own cars.


Wednesday 15th July Day 3- Nissan(Day 2)

We finished designing the main bodies of the cars and moved on to designing the nose cones and back wings which were to be 3D printed along with the wheels. After lunch we had a factory tour, it was surprising to see how busy it was; there were car doors being carried above our heads, people driving around on trolley like vehicles and the production lines moving non-stop. We learned that every job carried out by each person takes 59 seconds and for every minute that the production line stopped it cost them £3,000. There are around 7000 people employed at Nissan; 6999 of them drove a Nissan car (the other guy rode horseback) and 6998 of them were men.


Thursday 16th July Day 4- Nissan(Day 3)

We finished the cars by printing the nose cones, wheels and back wings and cutting out the bodies out of wood. As we didn’t have time to paint them properly we used highlighters to decorate them and added the final touches to our cars in preparation for racing them. My group’s car (Phil) won its race however it was about 20g too light and to be within the spec they have to be 54g +/- 0.5g. The specification for the F1 challenge was very specific and you would lose 6pts for every fault with your car which makes it very important to stick to the guidelines.

cars vid

Emma: The Reece Summer School Week 1

So, after months of planning the Reece Summer School finally got underway on July 13th with 9 girls who applied from all across the North East of England. We have had a great time! When thinking about how to start the Reece Summer School, Beamish seemed the obvious choice.  The North East is jam packed with great examples of engineering and has led the way globally for others to follow.  Beamish allowed us the opportunity to get to know each other better and also reflect and appreciate the speed of change and the amazing advancements that have taken place over the last 100 years.  I asked the girls “what will engineering look like in another 100 years from now?”  Will solar power be archaic, will Beamish be staffed by artificial intelligence or, cars with wheels and drivers marveled at, as we now use driverless, hover machines?   Who knows, and that is the exciting part of engineering.  We do not yet know what the future will look like but STEM subjects are allowing us to create that future and the girls can be part of that, as can every other young person in the North East and beyond.

We also had the opportunity to spend three days at Nissan.  The manufacturing plant was fascinating and if you have not been before, most definitely worth a visit.  The speed and efficiency of staff was phenomenal.  (We are a talented bunch in the north)! Over the three days the girls were put into teams and took part in the F1 challenge.  We worked with Les who was very helpful and also met with a group of pupils from St Cuthberts, Newcastle who have made it through to the internationals for the F1 School Challenge, meaning they spend 10 days in Singapore, racing their very impressive car, staying in the Hard Rock Hotel, watching the Grand Prix, visiting Universal Studios and if they win, scholarships to University.  After hearing this and that the next internationals are to be held in Dubai next year, the girls were extremely interested in the F1 challenge, so watch this space! Oh, and good luck to St Cuthberts.

I too have learnt a great deal this week and have experienced the vastness of engineering and the many types of engineering that the North East can offer. I have also enjoyed watching the girls grow in confidence as they get to know each other better, start to challenge themselves and think more deeply about engineering opportunities which may interest them in the future and where physics fits into it all.

The picture I have chosen is of the finished cars the girls made, in what was a very short space of time.  Les was extremely impressed with how quickly they picked up Autocad Inventor.  He had also never seen cars so colourful as these ones on the Nissan test track before… result!

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Charlottes Week One


Our three week journey began with a trip to Beamish Museum. Having never met or spoken to any of the other eight girls before it was a nerve wrecking start. But it pleases me to say that the girls couldn’t be any nicer and that we all get along really well. As the day progressed it became noticeable that communities back in the 1920s relied on engineers and scientists to develop solutions to the problems faced by the coal industry just as much as we rely on them today.

It was particularly interesting to see how much technology has advanced over the past hundred years. It’s scary to think how quickly we’ve jumped from steam winding engines to thin pieces of touchscreen chrome and glass but it’s even scarier to think what direction technology will take us in the next hundred years.

We ended the day with a last minute trip to the sweet shop for toffee bonbons and midget gems before taking a tram ride back to the main entrance with some of the less well known cast members of Downton Abbey. This made for a good photo op though.


We continued our three week journey with a three day trip to Nissan at Sunderland where we all took part in the F1 Challenge. We were split into groups of three and were asked to design, build and make a miniature racing car. Our group developed the winning ’Shark’ car which set a new world record giving an outstanding performance of 0.736 seconds! However, this was a shallow victory as the car failed to comply with ANY of the rules or regulations. Oh well.

We designed our cars using CAD software called AutoDesk Inventor. This software was fiddly and frustrating to begin with became easier with more experience allowing us to achieve more accurate, higher performing cars.

To end our time at Nissan we were given a full factory tour. It was incredible to observe the speed at which the cars are produced; the factory makes an astounding 2500 cars a day which amounts to around 500,000 cars a year! I found it difficult to comprehend how it only took two seconds for the dashboard to be fitted by only two men.


We ended our first week back at the Think Lab at Northumbria University where we split off into groups of three and made a start to our Nepal research project. We divided up the different research points between the three of us and collectively made a video in the form of ‘news style interviews’ summarising our initial research.

After a quick lunch break we were given a tour of the Engineering facilities and different departments at Northumbria University. The civil engineering department sparked a particular interest; I found the Fluids and Thermodynamics Lab particularly exciting and it was interesting to see how they carry out research into fluids, by measuring flow in channels for example.

To put an end to the first week we presented our video to the other two groups. Everyone agreed that the video was funny for all the wrong reasons.